You don’t know how lucky you are, boy.

Some of the fascinating and sometimes disturbing observations I’ve made this past year while travelling through almost a dozen different countries are the political systems. As frustrated as Americans can be with our political systems we are blessed when compared to most of the rest of the world. Let’s take a closer look.

India. It’s the worlds largest democracy. It’s so large that it’s impossible for the entire country of 1.2 billion people to vote at the same time. So they take their time. The weather, including snow and monsoons, planting and harvesting seasons, school exam schedules, religious festivals and public holidays all play a role in scheduling the elections in the different states. Yes, different states vote at different times, usually over the course of up to 8 weeks. So imagine you live in California and you vote on Nov 1st, and the folks in NH get to vote on Dec 15th. We’d never stand for it in the U.S. right?

Sri Lanka. Former politicians constructed a port project funded by China that was not needed. Experts warned the port would fail but the government kept taking loans from China. Once completed the port was a miserable failure and they couldn’t make the payments to China. China now owns the 15000 acre port which sits just a few hundred miles off the Indian coast.

Nepal. In 2001 the King and his family were killed in a familial coup – killed by a relative. The king’s brother took over the country, appointed a government ruled by him, and imposed martial law. The country was in the midst of a Maoist insurgency. After 240 years of royal rule the monarchy was abolished in 2008 and a new federal republic was formed. All agreed to draft a new constitution. It only took 7 years.

Thailand. Thailand’s current government is a Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy under a military junta.  The have a king, but he’s pretty quiet. Do you like constitutions? Thailand has had 20 of them in the past 80 or so years. In 2014 the military took over. They formed a new party, “The National Council for Peace and Order”, and the leader and his 7 deputies are all army, police, air force or navy. They each control up to 20 cabinet departments. They currently run the country. Things are extremely orderly.

Malaysia.  Just days before we arrived, there was an election in which a 93 year old former Prime Minister stunned the world and was elected to head the country. He was sworn in the next day. They don’t fool around with 10 or 12 weeks of planning for an inauguration in Malaysia. When you win, you’re in. The PM he replaced was accused of receiving $700 million dollars in a kickback. In his personal residences police found 72 bags containing jewellery, 284 boxes of luxury handbags and luxury wristwatches, valuing the hoard at $241 million dollars. He claims the $241 million in loot was all gifts, and the $700 million was a mistake and mostly returned to a Saudi Arabian family, buy he kept $60 million of it. Case is ongoing. He was just arrested again yesterday.

South Africa. Too complicated to go into any depth here but former president Jacob Zuma is an intersecting read on Wikipedia if you have the time. He was forced out in February.

Brazil. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – the country’s extremely popular former president, known affectionately as “Lula”, sentenced this year to 12 years in prison for corruption. Dilma Rousseff – who followed Lula into office after he had served two terms was impeached in August 2016 by the parliament. Michel Temer – the former vice-president who took office in August last year after Dilma was impeached, was charged by the attorney general – with receiving money from the boss of giant meatpacking firm JBS, which itself is already implicated in a corruption scandal. Brazil has an election coming up. Stay tuned.

Peru. In our taxi ride from the airport our driver told us that two former Peruvian presidents are currently incarcerated. A third ex-Peruvian president, Alejandro Toledo, is a fugitive from justice on corruption charges, reportedly having fled to the United States.

So cheer up. None of our former presidents are in jail. Our military has never taken over the country. And technically we’ve never had a king. We get ourselves to the polls all on the same day. It works.

I’m home in about 6 weeks. Back in the US, back in the US, back in the US of A.

 

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